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Monthly Archives: January 2014

And so it continues…

*Sigh* It seems like the more things change the more they stay the same. In my last post I wrote about how bloody cold it was and how tired I was of the weather. Well, guess what? Yup, it’s the same ‘ole story three weeks later. Yes, we did get a little reprieve in there, but come on! This has definitely been the crappiest winter I can remember. Now don’t get me wrong, I did sign up for this (as in I decided to live here), but there’s got to be a limit to it. It hasn’t been as cold as it was at the beginning of the month, but -41C is still flippin’ cold. We better have a kick-ass spring and summer to make up for all the BS we’ve been putting up with. Rant off!

So it’s almost the end of January and that means the end of another semester and the start of a new one. I finished marking all my exams and submitted my reports, so I’m done with the first half of the year. Yay! It’s not that I didn’t like my classes, but after 5 months it’s time for a change; new kids, new classes. A new semester always energizes you a bit, like a breath of fresh air in your sails. Second semester also means that we’re on the downward slide toward June and the end of the school year. Geez, it just keeps going by faster and faster every year!

One of the most exciting parts of moving into February is that we are inching ever closer to the March break Europe trip. One of the students stopped by room last week and said that when we started the countdown it was like 500 and something days before departure. Wow, time has certainly flown by! I am very anxious to go, but as the group leader I always have that bit of nervousness that accompanies a big event like this. The reality I guess is starting to set in. It’s probably just me though, just like I get nervous before every football game. In any case, our EF backpacks and trip water bottles have arrived, so all the little pieces are starting to fall into place. 35 days until we leave!

The craptastic weather we’ve been experiencing over the last month has certainly put a big damper on any outdoor activities one would expect to do in winter. So far I’ve only made it up the mountain twice since Christmas, and haven’t gotten out the last few weekends (see the reason above). I’m hoping that the -14C they are calling for Saturday is warm enough to get out and about, since Sunday is Superbowl Sunday and you know what that means! Yup, it’s time for the annual Superbowl party and I have a million things to do to get ready. It would be nice to squeeze in a little fresh air before I spend the day on Sunday cleaning up and preparing food. This is the first time in a while that I am not cheering for a particular team, since I actually like both Denver and Seattle. Maybe there will be some real football weather for this year’s edition ie. snow and cold!

Snow-obscured Loch Lomond, January 2014.

Snow-obscured Loch Lomond, January 2014.

So I actually have some things to report on the railway front for a change. I have some really exciting news to talk about, but I’ll save that for last. However it started me thinking about writing another article on a railway related topic, so I did spend time doing some research over the weekend. I’d like to write about the Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad, which was a little logging line built by the Pigeon River Lumber Company in 1903. It connected to the PAD&W at Gunflint Lake and was in operation until 1909. It was very unique in that it was an American railroad that had no connection to any other American railroad; its only link was north through Canada. Very odd indeed.

The president of the G&LS was one Daniel J. Arpin of Wisconsin and I’ve been trying to track down a photo of him for some time. That led me off on a search for the gentlemen who manned the Canadian customs house at Gunflint between 1903 and 1909, Thomas Roberts and Peter Chausse. I’ve mentioned on several occasions that I love to do this type of investigation and see what I can come up with. It can be very frustrating at times, but also great when you make a big discovery. Most of my time was spent trying to scrounge up some pictures, which was fairly unsuccessful. But you never know though, maybe a breakthrough will come at some point.

While I was on the topic of the G&LS, I moved into looking at some maps of the area. Hiking the G&LS is on my agenda for this year, weather permitting, since I haven’t really looked at the Minnesota portion since 1997. It`s really too bad the amazing wood trestle near Bridal Falls is gone, as it was quite the sight to see (it burned in the 2007 Ham Lake Fire and had to be dynamited to put out the fire smoldering inside the logs). When I did walk the railway all those years ago, I did not follow the whole length of the line. The question I need to answer is where did it go from there. Documents suggest that the railway ran down to Crab Lake and then possibly a mile east to Whisker Lake. To help me locate the route, I turned to Lidar.

Gunflint & Lake Superior RR map, International Boundary Commission Map (1929).

Gunflint & Lake Superior RR map, International Boundary Commission Survey (1929).

Top of the G&LS log trestle, August 1997.

Top of the G&LS log trestle, August 1997.

G&LS log trestle, August 1997.

G&LS log trestle, August 1997.

G&LS log trestle, August 1997.

G&LS log trestle, August 1997.

G&LS log trestle during the Ham Lake Fire, May 2007. (T. Kaffine)

G&LS log trestle during the Ham Lake Fire, May 2007. (T. Kaffine)

Remains of the G&LS log trestle, August 2011.

Remains of the G&LS log trestle, August 2011.

Lidar is a remote sensing technology that uses lasers to collect elevation and other data from the ground. It is very useful at finding old railway grades, especially where embankments and cuttings were made as they stand out in the ground around it. It`s not always perfect, especially in wet or low areas where the grade has settled into the ground, but it`s better that nothing. Hopefully it has given me a few clues as to where to look for the G&LS south of Bridal Falls; I guess we`ll find out in the fall when I`m planning to go there!

Lidar image, Gunflint Lake.

Lidar image, Gunflint Lake.

By far the most exciting news from the past week was the publication of my article on Leeblain. Yes, I am now officially an author and historian! It is amazing to see my work in print and out there so people can read what I’ve discovered. Unfortunately things are not all roses though; part of my article is missing from the 2013 edition of Papers & Records. After a bit of digging, we were able to determine that a little technical glitch omitted the last third of my article. However, the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society has graciously agreed to reprint it in their 2015 issue. Better late than never and maybe if they like my G&LS article, I’ll have two entries for the book!

Leeblain article, Papers & Records.

Leeblain article, Papers & Records.

Anyway, it’s time to run. I’ll be back in the next few weeks with more news…maybe the weather will have warmed up by that time. Until then…

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2014 in Hiking, History, Railway, Research, Travel, Writing

 

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Okay, enough already!

Hey Old Man Winter! Ya, you! You’re a crotchity, cranky old buzzard and you suck! Geez, that’s a little harsh don’t you think Dave? Yes, yes it is and I mean every word of it. Hey, I understand that I decided to live in a northern climate, but this presses the limits of one’s tolerance. Really, could the weather be any worse? Well, the answer is yes, but not by much. The last month and half has been nothing but snow and cold. So yes, I am a bit bitter and rightly so. Am I pushing my luck with Karma? Maybe, but what have I got to lose?

Well, it’s been a month since my last post and the hot button topic has certainly been the weather. If you live anywhere in the central part of North America, you know exact what I’m talking about (Polar Vortex anyone?). The weather has been downright miserable of late, at times making me regret liking living here so much. Comes with the territory right? Yes, but come on? Does it have to be this cold? Last year I wrote that I had seen the lowest temperature I could remember; well guess what? Yup, it got even colder! Twice last week my home temperature record was broken; first at -38.2C, then a few days later at -39C. With the wind it was -51C one of those days! We were the coldest place in Canada! Seriously? Thunder Bay is at 48 degrees north…there are a helluva a lot of places farther north than us and we were the coldest place! I am certainly not alone in my current disdain for the weather, but hope is on the horizon. The forecast is calling for -2C on the weekend. -2! Holy crap! I might have to break out my shorts for that!

-38.2C, December, 2013.

-38.2C, December 2013.

-39C, January 2014.

-39C, January 2014.

So Christmas break has come and gone and I am now back at work. Ugh! It seems like every year the break goes by faster and faster; the two weeks seemed like a blur! I know the kids enjoyed it and Santa Claus was very good to them. I guess I can’t complain though, since Santa brought me a present too…I got the awesome Sean Lee throwback jersey I wanted! It certainly offset the fact that I passed a not-so-great milestone birthday. Yes, I turned the big 4-0! Everyone kept asking me how it felt to be forty; how do you answer that? I felt the same as I did when I was 39! It’s not like I suddenly became decrepit on my birthday. You’re only as old as you feel right?

Sean Lee throwback jersey!

Sean Lee throwback jersey!

The return to work has brought me back to that ever-present pile of marking that never seems to diminish. I know I’ll get it cleared up soon since exams and the end of the semester are just around the corner. Also keeping me busy is the fact that the Europe trip is coming up quick…March seems like a long way away but it isn’t. There is so much to do. I applied for a new passport over Christmas, and now I’m collecting forms, planning meetings and buying water bottles. Was I this busy the last time? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that in 2012 there were 7 students and now there are 22. I am very excited to go, but also nervous in the fact that I want to make sure all the bases are covered. 57 days until departure!

Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, April 2012.

Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, April 2012.

The railway front has been a bit up and down since I last wrote. As usual, time is the biggest detriment in terms of getting anything substantial done. Over the break I finally finished posting all my summer/fall hiking photos and video to Facebook and YouTube, which was long overdue. Hopefully I don’t fall behind like that again. I did spend a little time doing some research during Christmas, mostly looking for some photos of people associated with the construction of the railway (George & Alexander Middleton, Ross Thompson). I certainly love the challenge of trying to dig up these images, but at times it can be very frustrating when you`re making no headway. Places like Ancestry are a very valuable tool, but so far the pictures are eluding me!

So my biggest piece of railway news is the anticipated release of the Thunder Bay Museum`s Paper and Records. I`m really excited to see my first published article in print! It should be ready anytime soon and hopefully it will be the start of more written pieces on my part. I was hoping to begin work on another piece about the Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad, but I just didn`t get around to it over the break. I`m sure to find some time for it over the next few months. We`ll see what happens!

Anyway, time to go. I’ll have more to say in the coming weeks, but for now you can enjoy my 100th post! Until then…

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2014 in History, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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